Financially, members of state delegation aren’t in the same boat

WASHINGTON–If Connecticut’s Congressional delegation was a boat club, Reps. Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney would be in dinghies. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Joseph Lieberman would be on yachts. None of the members would be sitting on an inflatable raft, let alone worrying about where the life vests are.

The most recent financial disclosure forms filed by Connecticut’s delegation reveal a sizable gap between the most and least affluent (with Congressional salaries starting at $174,000, none could be called “poor”). The  forms were filed last month, and they will be publicly released next week, but lawmakers provided their forms to the Mirror ahead of the official release date.

Two who are among those with the most to report, in terms of family wealth–Sen. Richard Blumenthal and 4th District Rep. Jim Himes–asked for extensions on the filing deadline. The same goes for Susan Bysiewicz, who is required to file because of her bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Lieberman, who plans to retire at the end of his current term. Their forms will be available in the coming months.

For those who filed on time, the disclosure reports show that, despite coming from a state with one of the highest per-capita incomes in the country, many in the delegation have relatively modest finances, at least compared to their peers. Congress is populated by dozens of multi-millionaires, starting with Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, who is worth as much as $451 million, according to a tally of 2009 disclosure forms by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Based on last year’s forms, Blumenthal was the 11th richest lawmaker, with assets ranging between $64 million and $125 million, according to a ranking by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. No one else from Connecticut made the center’s top 25 “richest” list.

As Blumenthal has pointed out, however, the vast majority of his disclosed assets are held by his wife, Cynthia, the daughter of New York real estate investor Peter Malkin. And the senator is bound to be a little poorer after last year’s election, when he gave his campaign about $2.5 million of his own money.

Himes’ report from last year showed he had assets valued at between $2.3 million to $4.6 million, along with one credit card debt of $10,000 to $150,000.

Among Connecticut lawmakers who released current reports, Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut’s 5th District, has the fewest assets of the bunch. He reported assets worth between $17,000 and $80,000, along with a couple of outstanding loans.

Lawmakers only have to list the value of their assets in broad ranges, so a precise tally of their net worth is impossible. The reports also exclude key information, such as the value of lawmakers’ principal residences, often the biggest ticket item any family owns.

Last year, Murphy reported only one asset–a life insurance policy valued at between $500,000 and $1 million. This year, he said in a letter to the House Ethics Committee, he didn’t include the policy based on a review of the disclosure requirements.

So his most recent forms don’t show that, but they do include three new investments. Murphy and his wife opened a Roth IRA, a 401K, and a college investment fund for their 2-year-old son.

“We’ve got a little guy who we hope will go to college one day, so it was time,” Murphy said of the 529 plan he and his wife started last year for their son. “Given what the cost of college will be 16 years from now, it’s not going to be nearly enough.”

He should know. Both Murphy and his wife are still paying off their own student loans, which together amount to between $30,000 and $100,000, according to Murphy’s filing.

“I think the relationship of our assets to our liabilities probably has something to do with the fact that we’re still just starting out in life,” Murphy said, noting that he and his wife, Cathy Holahan, have only been married for a few years. Holahan works as a legal aid lawyer.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is a little better off, reporting assets valued at between $133,021 and $595,000, and no debts. Courtney’s latest disclosure includes four new investments that he said were inadvertently omitted in previous years.

Josh Zembik, Courtney’s spokesman, said the congressman had a new person prepare his reports this year who “spotted something that had been left off.” The additional investments include some MetLife Variable Annuities, worth between $17,000 and $80,000, as well as two retirement accounts held by his wife and valued at $3,747 and $5,218 respectively.

Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, reported assets valued at between $135,000 and $425,000. His biggest holding was a Fidelity fund worth between $100,000 and $250,000. The liberal lawmaker, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, reported no debts.

In addition to his Congressional pension, Lieberman, who will retire next year with a tidy bank account–and that’s before he hits the private sector.

Lieberman reported assets worth at least $907,000 and as much as $3.05 million for 2010. He made as much as $35,000 in 2010 in “unearned income”–from dividends, interest, and rent–on top of his Senate salary and royalties from his three books.

His wife Hadassah made at least $24,000 in honoraria and other fees for speeches and consulting work. She worked as a consultant, for example, to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, which raises money to combat breast cancer. And she was paid $8,000 for a speech in Florida to the Saint Anthony Health Care Foundation.

DeLauro is near the top end of the delegation in terms of wealth, and she saw a small uptick in the value of her assets, which were at least $6.1 million and as much as $27.5 million. As in previous years, DeLauro’s financial disclosure form shows that her family’s most valuable asset is her husband’s polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. DeLauro’s husband, Stanley Greenberg, owned 67 percent of the firm, an interest valued at between $5 million and $25 million, in 2010.

The couple also had five outstanding debts–also mostly her husband’s. A Diners Club account, on which balance between $15,000 and $50,000 was listed, is jointly held, however.